Steven Spielberg's 'Jaws': A Reappraisal

August 4, 2014 3:19 PM

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June 20th, 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Steven Spielberg's classic thriller Jaws (released June 20, 1975, and based of Peter Benchley's 1974 novel of the same name) -- a picture that many consider to be the first modern summer blockbuster. On Martha's Vineyard, however, where the picture was filmed, the celebration has begun early with cinemas across the island holding showings of Spielberg's film on a weekly basis. For many on the island, Jaws holds an intimate power. Tours of the film's shooting locations leave the small town of Edgartown daily to pepper curious tourists with trivia about the film's notoriously difficult production, and all the ways that it captures the pristine, modest beauty of the island on which it was shot. As such, when I went to see the film at the two-screen Edgartown cinema in mid-July, I found myself greeted by hordes of fans, all ready to relive the terror of a film that captured the American cinematic imagination almost forty years ago. Some of us saw it in theaters, some on television screens. Regardless, it is a testament to Jaws's enduring power as both a cultural touchstone and thriller landmark that a film -- at first expected to bomb -- has endured so wonderfully. Who'd have thought that Bruce -- Spielberg's nickname for the multiple animatronic sharks whose mechanical issues almost sunk the production -- could still make us all so afraid to go in the water.

This power holds especially impressive given the conversation that has dominated much of the cinema landscape over the last few summers. Critics and historians -- especially this year, when July 4th weekend (a usually exuberant display of blockbuster marketing) came around with no notable releases t...

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